Cleveland Beer Week has found its white knight.
Chris Lieb, co-owner of The Butcher and the Brewer and Tremont Taphouse in Cleveland, has agreed to take over the operation of Cleveland Beer Week, saving the annual celebration from ending after a 10-year run. The event traditionally has been held over 10 days in October.
"No one wants to it go away," Lieb said Wednesday.
Winking Lizard Tavern and Lizardville Beer & Whiskey Store partner John Lane, who co-founded the event, announced last week that he was stepping aside and that Cleveland Beer Week was ending unless someone else stepped up to run the celebration and overarching nonprofit, which provides financial support for the Jimmy Malone Scholarship Fund.
At the time, Lane noted that, “It’s beer week every week,” attendance has suffered for some gatherings, and it's much more difficult to plan special activities given the rise of craft breweries and the number of events held now throughout the year.
Lieb said Lane isn't wrong.
Cleveland Beer Week will have to refocus when it returns this year, likely on Oct. 19, he said. Lieb already has some ideas, such as shortening the week to seven or eight days. He also wants to retool the week-ending beer festival known as Brewzilla and include a food element.
"We have to come up with some cool, creative ideas and use the ones that are already working," he said. "There are events that need some tweaking and we’ve got to find creative ways to make them a little more exciting for people. That’s what we’re going to work on."
The Cleveland Beer Week nonprofit board will meet next week to start planning. Lieb noted that the Belgian Social, which focuses on Belgian beers and is held at Butcher and the Brewer, and the Off-Shore Pour, a drinking excursion aboard the Nautica Queen on Lake Erie, have proven to be popular and will return.
Collaboration beers — when local breweries get together to make special beers for the week — also will return. But the Collaboration Crawl, which involved people visiting various neighborhood bars and restaurants to sample the collaboration beers, won't.
The Collaboration Crawl proved to be a logistical nightmare. Instead, the collaboration beers will likely be released at the final beer festival, Lieb said.
There has been some grumbling about Cleveland Beer Week not being focused enough on Cleveland breweries. The event was never set up to promote just Cleveland-made beer, Lieb noted, but that criticism will lead to "a little more focus on Cleveland and Ohio beer."
Lieb said he has already heard from many people pledging their support to keep the celebration going.
"I’m up for the challenge," he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/lifestyle/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.